They were in first grade when the streak started, and 8th graders when Mr. Waymire arrived at VSHS.
Now, the seniors of the Vinton-Shellsburg Marching Band Regiment have led the band to its 12th straight Division 1 rating and its best finish ever at the Waukee Band Invitational.
The band season officially ended last Saturday in Waukee, where the Regiment overcame the rain to earn a score of 65.3 and a third place finish.
“What a great way for the seniors to end their marching band career,” wrote Waymire on the VS Band Facebook page. “While the marching band season is now over, the mark that this class left on the Viking-Regiment will be felt long after they have graduated. Thank you, seniors, for all of the great memories. I hope you enjoyed your time as much as I did.”
The comments that many of those seniors shared with Vinton today indicated that indeed, they have enjoyed being part of the band throughout their high school years.
“My favorite thing about being a senior this year was being in the middle of the cheer that we always do before we perform every single halftime show,” says Kristina Kirk. “Being in the middle wrapped in the arms of my friends and fellow seniors getting pumped for the show was amazing.”
As a freshman, Kristina said it was quite frightening to look at how many people were watching.
“Performing in our show was a natural thing for me as a senior, but I remember how scared I was my freshman year,” Kristina explains. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, look at all those people who are here to see the band.’ I was petrified. But I made it.”
And now, says Kristina: “It’s more fun than scary.”
Bailey Bruce was a flag corps captain for her last two seasons.
“It has been a great four years but this one especially.” says Bailey. “It was great to end our senior year on a high note with 3rd place. Every year we have progressively gotten better and this year was no exception even with almost half of the Color Guard being new members.”
The squad leaders credits the new flag corp team members for their hard work.
“The new members have really stepped up the challenge this year and the returners were great as well,” she says. This year’s show was probably my favorite show out of all four years because our routine incorporated more dance and free movement elements. That made this routine the most challenging we have ever done. Our instructor, Danni Manning, told us at the beginning of the year that we were changing it up this year and adding some new elements, like dance and free movement. She taught us well and she helped us improve so much. At one point we improved by almost 8 points from one competition to the next.
Bailey’s senior season also included something that most flag corps have not seen: A guy joining the team.
“We not only added new girls to the team this year we also added one guy as well. I have seen guys in other Guards before but they have almost always been larger 4A school bands, so it was really great to add Eli Powers to the team this year. Almost anyone can tell you he is great to work with, can hold his own and is a great addition to the team.,” says Bailey, who explains that many people do not realize just how physically challenging flag corps can be, continuously moving and waving a flag in unison with many others for long periods of time.
“Color Guards is a very demanding activity,” she says. “You are constantly moving and running for 8-10 minutes and not only your legs but your whole body, all the while trying to not hit yourself with the flag.”
During many of the team’s performances, wind and rain also complicated the challenges of flag corps members this year.
While most of the seniors have been part of the VS Band since middle school, one member is brand new to the district and the band.
“I just moved to Vinton a year ago and my classmates in band have been the reason why I love it here so much,” says Denise Perez, who was also welcomed into the VSHS National Honor Society this week. “The best part of being in this band is that everyone makes you feel like you’re somebody. We’re all equal and we can be anyone who we want to be. Everyone is able to express their differences and are able to come together to make music is just amazing in marching band.”
Like Kristina, Denise says a one of her favorite memories is the team huddle that takes place before performances and home football games.
For senior Evan Sampson, his favorite part of band happens before the school year starts: Band Camp.
“Band camp is possibly one of my favorite things about school,” says Evan, explaining how hard the students work to learn the music and marching of a new routine each season.
“Four hours every weekday for two weeks, and we haven’t even mastered the second movement. It takes time and concentration. Band isn’t all fun and games, I mean, it has to incorporate some learning, right?”
Yet, Evan adds, there are plenty of opportunities for fun and games with the band, even at camp.
He remembers especially the day at band camp when there was a Class of 2018 conspiracy and every senior brought a water gun and drenched the lower classmen.
“That was a glorious day. Even better that same day was when two other seniors doused Mr. Waymire, our director, with a cooler full of water,” Evan recalls.
Yet, sometimes, the students show their appreciation in ways Mr. Waymire finds more appealing.
A few weeks ago, Evan’s dad, Greg, pointed out to him that Mr. Waymire had posted on Facebook a picture that said, ‘Don’t forget the first week of October is ‘Buy Your Band Director a Steak Week!’
“Immediately, I wanted to do something,” says Evan. “So I reached out to the band kids, and at least six of them gave me enough money to buy Mr. Waymire four steaks from Fareway, which I left in a small cooler in his office one day, with a note commemorating the occasion. He was quite enthralled by that little care package. So far, that’s my favorite memory of the year.”
But now, as the end of the season means they will never again wear those black, and white uniforms with the gold trim, it is occasionally emotional, says Evan.
“Like we all say, it’s an extremely bittersweet feeling, ending marching season for the last time,” he says. “Kids get emotional during our last home game performance every year – and not just seniors – but the younger kids who will miss them, too. I’ve even heard some students refer to band as their second family, which I can totally understand. In band, about 95% of us make and sustain friendships that are sure to last beyond high school. There’s just an atmosphere of excitement, anticipation, and laughter before every performance that is the very reason we all love band so dearly – besides getting up at 6:45 for morning rehearsals. I’m sure that’s everyone’s favorite.”
For Evan, band is the thing he loves most about high school life.
“When I’m asked about my life as a high school student, band is the first place my mind wanders to, every time. I’m a trumpeter, and I’ve loved my section quite a lot since freshman year. And frankly, I hate to stop practicing the dreaded marching fundamentals, counting each beat before taking that first step, and tuning my section’s Concert C note every weekend. But honestly, it wouldn’t be such a beautiful thing if it didn’t come to an end.”
Percussion member Matt Andreesen said his four years in the band have offered a variety of opportunities.
“Throughout the four years it’s been great to meet new people, new friends, and learn to work together. I liked progressing year to year building more leadership responsibility. Band gave me some great life lessons. I will miss it,” Matt says.
Working with the drum line this year as a coach was U of I music student Andy McDonald. The percussion members presented him with a unique gift to thank him for the time he spent helping them: A Pokemon-themed Build a Bear, which includes seven hearts, one for each drum line member, as well as sound effects. The connection between members, as well as between members and their directors and coaches, is another memory that band members say they will always cherish.
Jenna lane, one of this season’s three drum majors, says that Marching Band season is her favorite part of the band’s annual regimen.
“Meeting new people and bonding with the band is something I’ll always remember,” says Jenna.
The seniors also received a unique form of recognition at Waukee: A fireworks tribute. See a video of that HERE.
While the marching band season is over, many of the band members will continue performing throughout the school year, in either concert band or jazz band, or both. The WAMAC Concert Band Festival is less than a month away, Nov. 14, at Van Horne.